To identify the molecular mechanisms underlying psychostimulant-elicited plasticity in the brain reward system, we undertook a phenotype-driven approach using genome-wide microarray profiling of striatal transcripts from three genetic and one pharmacological mouse models of psychostimulant or dopamine supersensitivity. A small set of co-affected genes was identified. One of these genes encoding the synaptic scaffolding protein PSD-95 is downregulated in the striatum of all three mutants and in chronically, but not acutely, cocaine-treated mice. At the synaptic level, enhanced long-term potentiation (LTP) of the frontocortico-accumbal glutamatergic synapses correlates with PSD-95 reduction in every case. Finally, targeted deletion of PSD-95 in an independent line of mice enhances LTP, augments the acute locomotor-stimulating effects of cocaine, but leads to no further behavioral plasticity in response to chronic cocaine. Our findings uncover a previously unappreciated role of PSD-95 in psychostimulant action and identify a molecular and cellular mechanism shared between drug-related plasticity and learning.
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